The Obligation to Disclose the Information Source as a Dangerous Precedent
The decision of the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative District on the publications of Hraparak daily and website concerning an accident in Gyumri may become a challenging precedent to silence mass media and limit the freedom of speech.

The panelists included:

Armine Ohanyan, Editor-in-Chief of Hraparak Daily;

Levon Barseghyan, President of ‘Asparez’ Gyumri’s Journalists’ Club;

Artak Zeynalyan, lawyer, member of ‘Rule of Law’ NGO;

Genya Petrosyan, Deputy Human Rights Defender.

Is the decision made in a closed hearing legal?

The Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative District issued the given decision without the participation of mass media representatives who claim that they were not even informed that an inspector of the RA Special Investigation Service had brought a suit to examine a suit based on their publications.

Armine Ohanyan confirmed that they received a Special Investigation Service notice requesting to provide the Service with data concerning the information source. A written reply was certainly sent, as Armine Ohanyan said, ‘referring to the RA Law on Mass Media we wrote that we had used all the information in the publication which can be referred to, as for the source, we wouldn’t disclose it.’

Armine Ohanyan describes the case as an unprecedented and new method which is applied against mass media. With respect to the legality of the decision, Atak Zeynalyan said ‘the court was not competent to take the claim and hold the hearings without the participation of the mass media.’ In addition, the journalist who is the information possessor must take part in the hearings and present their arguments; Artak Zeynalyan concluded ‘this case could not be examined either according to the criminal code or even civil code. It is an illegal action since the court did not act under the law.’

The Human Rights Defender of Armenia is seriously concerned over the possible dangers in protection of information source

Genya Petrosyan clarified that the Human Rights Defender is not competent to comment on the cases which are still in the trial process but she discussed some points pertaining to the case. Particularly, she noted ‘obliging the mass media to disclose the information source to contribute to the investigation may result in the devaluation of the given right and exclusion of the opportunity for mass media to acquire information, which is very dangerous.’

The panelist also mentioned that Karen Andreasyan, Human Rights Defender of Armenia, has filed a written proposal of amendments to the Ministry of Justice.

The court decision will not force the given mass media to shift their news policy

Levon Barseghyan is convinced that law enforcement agencies will not silence Hraparak and According to Barseghyan, it may be an effort to ‘threaten those mass media which are already frightened as if to teach a lesson to everyone saying that you will have such risks if you don’t work as data collector for us.’

The representatives of Hraparak and appealed the decision of the court of General Jurisdiction in the court of appeal.

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